“The time is coming”, declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant… for I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31, 34)
If you were a Jew living before the time of Jesus, you would have gone to the temple year after year to offer sacrifices for your sin. Unfortunately, however, the Mosaic Covenant did not provide a single sacrifice that guaranteed cleansing forever. While it foreshadowed how sin could be forgiven, it never really had the capacity to cleanse people’s hearts completely and for all time. It was the spiritual equivalent of dialysis – it kept the believer’s hopes alive, but it was a very imperfect way of giving sinners assurance. Indeed, it couldn’t.
How different the provisions of the New Covenant. The New Covenant announces that a once-for-all sacrifice for sin has been made through the shedding of Christ’s blood upon the cross. No longer must we visit the temple in Jerusalem and go through the sacrificial routine time after time. As the writer to the Hebrews says, “Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (9:26). Here we discover that the blood of Christ is as superior to the blood of sacrificial lambs as a healthy transplanted kidney is to a dialysis machine. If you are offered the choice, you know which one you’ll take. You want the one that works all the time, in every place, and never lets you down, right? Well, the New Covenant provides 24 hours a day, 365 days a year coverage for the forgiveness of sins. It works in every place at every time and will never fail.
The New Covenant is important for another reason. It reminds us of where our real problems in life lie. The chances are that if you watch a lot of TV and movies, you may have the impression that our fundamental problems are to be found beyond us – in uncontrollable forces that smash into our lives with all the force of a tsunami. For instance, when we see earthquakes or experience floods and famine, we may be tempted to think that our real problems are to be found in nature.
Alternatively, when we witness the horror of a terrorist act like 9/11 or the melt-down of a nuclear reactor such as recently happened in Fukushima, we may believe that our real enemies are terrorism or climate change. True, all these things have the capacity to cause immense grief and harm, but according to the Bible, the real evil facing us – and the one which we must deal with – is not outside us, but within. The real problem is sin.
Now please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Christians should be unconcerned about the world’s unhappiness and suffering. On the contrary, I think Christians should be in the vanguard of those who step forward to offer relief to those weighed down by life’s burdens. But if we think that our only real problems are poverty, disease, and natural disaster, then the words of the New Covenant are meaningless. For the New Covenant reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and that the most serious problem facing all of us is the possibility that we might die apart from God, unforgiven and in our sin. This is why the best news that we could ever hear is that God has made provision for us in Christ to forgive our sin and to remember that sin no more.